06/25/2012, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - VATICAN

A good movie: John and Rugalda, Korean Martyrs and virgin spouses

by Bernardo Cervellera
The winning story of two young Koreans of the eighteenth-nineteenth century who loved each other virginally and supported each other until martyrdom. Director Kim Suhyeong: It is a thanksgiving to God for the faith given to Koreans. Today there are Korean missionaries in many countries around the world.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Korean Embassy to the Holy See has made a nice gift to the Italian Catholic community: it has organized the screening of a film about a pair of Korean martyrs, John and Rugalda, who both suffered martyrdom in the early 1800s. The film has a meditative and dramatic pace, with moments of high poetry and high-level photography. The screening took place in Pius X hall, on via della Conciliazione, but the film will also be shown on the Catholic channel TV2000 tonight, June 25, at 9:20 p.m. The work is produced in Korea by the PBC (Pyeonghwa Broadcasting Corporation), linked to the Korean Bishops' Conference.

The Italian title ("Giovanni e Rugalda, due sposi vergini" - "John and Rugalda, two virgin spouses"), doesn't do justice to the work. The theme is not the Church's teaching on premarital sex, but the story of two real people who lived their faith and their vocation to the point of martyrdom. The film proves, if proof were needed, that the Christian tradition and the stories of the martyrs have no end of material to fill entire TV series, without inventing characters who often risk banality.

Focusing on the tastes and traditions of the time (the XVIII - XIX centuries), the film tells the story of John Yu Jung-cheol, 19, and Rugalda Yi Sun-I, 16. Both come from noble and wealthy Christian families; both, after baptism, decide to consecrate themselves to the Lord. But the environment shaped by the Confucian tradition did not allow young people from wealthy families not to marry and have children. So the first foreign priest (Chinese), who raised them in the faith, in agreement with the parents, has them enact a marriage ceremony, while maintaining the covenant to live "as brother and sister."

In a clean but dramatic manner, the work shows the derision that surrounds them, as well as the their travail in the "temptations" (documented also by the letters left by Rugalda). But it is especially in the story of their martyrdom that the film reaches its high points. In 1801 John's family is arrested and sentenced to death. John's father, Augustine, among the early converts in Korea, is quartered in the public square. John and Rugalda, arrested at different times, manage to send each other messages, sustaining each other through their torture and suffering, in the hope of "seeing each other in Paradise."

It should be noted that the two, along with other Korean martyrs, are awaiting approval for their beatification from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Director Kim Suhyeong, present at the screening, told AsiaNews that his work is inspired by the movie "The Mission" by Roland Joffé, set in Latin America. It is meant to be a thanksgiving to God for the gift of faith to Korea, born 200 years ago, without the presence of any missionary. Another thanks is for the growth of Christianity in a hostile environment. "This couple depicted in the movie", he said, "are two out of thousands of faithful who have given their lives". And the third thanks is for the Korean Church: "Now", he concluded, "we have grown to the point of sending missionaries to many other countries around the world. All this faith was born and developed from the testimony of the Korean martyrs."

For more information on John Yu and Rugalda Yi, see.: Various Authors, Sposi e Santi, Dieci profili di santità coniugale, Cantagalli, 2012.

 

 

 

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